Experts, Social Media, and Non-AdviceBy Shanna Mallon

These days, self-proclaimed marketing “experts” are everywhere.

Unfortunately, helpful advice doesn’t always come with them.

It only takes one negative experience taking (or worse, paying for) the wrong counsel to know how much bad advice can cost you.

How do you protect yourself?

Are there ways to know who is trustworthy?

Where can you go for reliable advice?

To help answer those questions, let’s look at a things worth remembering:

The Proof is in the Results

Just because somebody says something doesn’t make it true. Always look for proof.

If a marketing article tells you to start an email newsletter, it better say why, and it better back up the claim with some evidence.

If a blogger tells you to invest in quality website design, ask yourself if the reasoning makes sense.

Here are a few examples of legitimate ways for experts to back up their claims:

  • Statistics: Do you know Vitamin C is good for you because you say so? Or is it the countless studies and statistics showing it to be the case? When an expert says you should blog every day, what’s the reasoning? Before you go jumping on a ship, ask yourself if there’s a good reason to do so.
  • Testimonials: A surefire way to know if an expert is actually one is simply listening to what others are saying. What have readers who followed the person’s advice said? What do past clients say? If a “guru” has no testimonials, it’s a warning sign.
  • Portfolios: You have much more reason to trust a marketing expert or company when it offers an established portfolio of successful work. Pay attention to track records. If an expert is truly so, it will show in the results.

Find the Real Experts

There are a few reasons working with an agency makes sense: They have real experience. They have staff dedicated to specific tasks from content marketing to search engine optimization. They know how to align tactics with business goals.

Before you hand over your marketing campaign to someone else, be sure to ask these questions:

  • How long have you been doing this?
  • Can I see some of your work?
  • How will you communicate with me?
  • What is your specific game plan in my campaign?
  • What goals will you meet?
  • What kind of guarantee can you offer?

Marketing is an art and a science, as Jennifer Shaheen writes at Small Business Trends: “There’s no way to guarantee your audience will respond the way you want them to.”

Sifting through Social Media

A Twitter profile with the words “marketing guru” does not tell you that you’ve found a person to trust. Anybody can say he or she is an expert.

That’s why you need to know how to sift through the chatter and find real value.

Signs that someone has a legitimate social media presence include:

  • Numbers: Numbers are not the only test for social media knowledge, but they are important. Social media is about engaging fans and building relationships. If nobody’s following, they’re not a social media expert.
  • Activity: Real social media experts know social media requires activity — regular, consistent posting and responding. See how the “expert” is engaging on social sites.
  • Published Articles: Experts will be recognized by other leaders in their industry. Take a look at articles the person has published. Where are they being posted? Only on a personal blog? Are they publishing on industry-relevant websites and blogs?
  • Resources: Leading social media experts publish eBooks, video tutorials, and share their knowledge. If a so-called expert you’re evaluating shares their knowledge freely, you can check to see how those resources are received.

Have you found it hard to wade through the sea of self-proclaimed experts online? What filters do you already use to know whom to trust?

Image courtesy of Antigone on Flickr

Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon is a writer for StraightNorth, a Chicago web design firm providing specialized SEO, Twitter marketing strategy, web development, and other online marketing services. Follow StraightNorth on Twitter @straightnorth.

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